The Problem with Pitties

It matters not what one is born, but what they grow to be.
- Albus Dumbledore

3-13-14(1)I recently wrote a post on why I love (accurate) breed profiling.  I briefly mentioned pitties (A.K.A., pit bulls), but didn’t really go into depth about them as a specific “breed” of dog. Right now pit bulls are a polarizing breed.  Lovers or fighters?  Vicious or victims?

As I’ve previously written, I’m all for accurate breed descriptions, or profiling. Name things accurately. Describe things correctly. As Dumbledore pointed out to Harry Potter, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”  Sage words.

Polarizing things, such as pitties, puts them in angel or devil categories, each side slinging skewed statistics and unrealistic qualities, towards the other:

  • Their jaws lock on their victims/There’s no such thing as an aggressive pittie
  • The pit bull terrier is the breed of choice for criminals./Pit bulls are the best family dogs.
  • Pit bulls will readily fight other dogs/Pit bulls are the most social dogs out there

Who’s right?  The problem lies within the fact that we only have two choices within to categorize pits: angel or devil.

In 1820, Sir Walter Scott wrote his famous Ivanhoe, a medieval romance set in 12th century England.  One of Ivanhoe’s characters that doesn’t get a lot of credit is Isaac of York, a Jew.  In 12th century England, where the story is set, Jews were basically a pariah. Hated and maligned, and apparently quite capable of witchcraft against Gentiles, according to the ludicrous thinking of the period.  They had mostly, if not always, been portrayed in western fiction as evil, base and cowardly.  After a bit of time, a small, select group of people began to loathe the treatment of Jews in literature, and portrayed them to be enlightened people, who were innocent beyond reproach (even Rebecca in Ivanhoe was treated as a pinnacle of beauty and innocence).  Obviously neither description of Jews was accurate – any large group of people cannot possibly be all good or bad.

Then comes Isaac.  Sir Walter Scott did something amazing when he created the character of Isaac:  he allowed Isaac to be base and elevated. Kind and cruel.  Able to be callous one moment, and show extreme tenderness the next.  In other words, Scott made him real.  To my recollection, this was the first time in history that Western culture had portrayed someone Jewish as, well, neither angel nor devil.  He was merely human. He was just like other humans.  And we judge humans on a case-by-case basis, not by gender, by ethnicity, or by…well, anything other than who the individual is.

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Consider Isaac when debates about pit bulls come up.  The best thing we can do for pitties as a “breed” is to allow them to land somewhere between angel and devil, just like any other breed of dog living being.  Pitties are not perfect. Please don’t put that label, so full of pressure, on them.   Pitties are dogs, no more, no less.  Just like every other dog, they have their quirks, and they have their amazing redeeming qualities.  Most importantly, they are individuals, not to be defined as a one-size-fits-all breed standard.

I am admittedly a pittie fan.  Being a trainer, I am familiar with these dogs. I’d say roughly 60% of my clients own pitties/pittie mixes, however, I have never been bit by one. They can be very timid sometimes, and occasionally very submissive, but stand-offish is not a word for them.  Sometimes shy, sometimes boisterous. Love playing with toys.  Always a riot, though.  Typically, they’re the type of dog who’d apologize for apologizing too much.

I’ve worked with a few clients who had dog-reactive pit bulls, but then again, I’ve had 4 pugs in the last week who were dog reactive.   Pitties are not suitable for every situation, but then, no dog is. But I’d confidently say they’re appropriate for most situations. I will not lie and say they are without fault; believe me, they can have faults, just like every other dog.  But they have heart. They have loyalty.  They seem to be willing to try to do what ever you want them to do. They are a dog. I personally do not own one because, unfortunately, that would be illegal in my home city of Lakewood.  But hopefully I will be able to in the near future.  I’ve kinda developed a crush on pitties, you see.

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This is why Darwin Dogs is so vocal about ending breed specific legislation (“BSL” or “Breed Bans”), and are aggressively pursuing an end to them..  As our mission statement proclaims, we are dedicated to peacefully and logically examining the necessity of Breed Specific Legislation in various cities, starting with our hometown of Lakewood, Ohio.

So instead of serving the Kool-aid of “Perfect Pitties” or the poison contained in the BSL’s, it’s time to give the victims of the BSL laws what they deserve: the opportunity to be looked upon with all their glorious faults and beauty.  In other words, just a regular dog. Perfectly imperfect.

Please help us in our fight against stereotypes, such as BSL.  For more information about how you can help, please check out All Breeds Lakewood, which is comprised of a handful of Lakewood citizens who have banded together to end breed discrimination and promote dog safety in our city.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Pit Stop – Our Pit Bull Problem

I originally wrote this post about 6 months ago, but after a recent trip to a local pet store out in the Pennsylvania area while on vacation, I thought it prudent to post it again, as I witnessed another dog fight right in front of me.  It was two small, mixed dogs, and it ended quickly and without bloodshed, but make no mistake: it was real and very violent.  I ask you to read this article before traveling to any pet store.  

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

― Sherrilyn Kenyon

A pit bull attacked another dog on Wednesday. The incident happened at a PetSmart in Georgia.  Frankly, I’m not surprised that the pit attacked.  Because he’s a pit?  No, don’t be stupid.  Because he’s a dog.

Breaking down the situation, here’s what happened according to Fox 5:

Mitch Philpott, 66, of Newnan, said he had headed down an aisle where the Pit Bull and its owner had been looking at merchandise.  Philpott said he asked the owner if her dog was okay and proceeded to pass her and the dog.  He said the Pitt Bull grabbed his Great Dane by the head and ear and bit him several times.

 

In a police report FOX 5 obtained, the Pitt Bull owner, Suzanne Peterson, told officers that she gave Philpott a verbal warning that she was not sure how her dog would respond to his dog and to stay away please.  The report quotes her as saying that Philpott continued anyway and said, “it’s okay, their tails are wagging.”  Philpott told Fox Five he never said that to the woman.

So who is wrong in this incident?  Both humans.  I’m not saying that the incident was deserved by anyone (let alone the dogs), but it was brought about by selfish owners.

Let’s take a step back here and dissect the scenario.  No, I really don’t care who said what and who did and did not control their dog.  However, it should be pointed out that this was obviously a fear-based “stay away from me” rather than an attack.  If it were an attack, there would have been actual serious damage, if not death, to either dogs or owners.  But I stand by my accusation that both owners were selfish.  Why?

Take a look at the average pet store where you can bring in your dog.  Narrow aisles for dogs to pass closely by each other.  You may say that the aisles are wider than grocery store aisles, but I can also say that Bill Cosby (who allegedly raped unconscious women he drugged) isn’t quite as bad as Jared Fogle (who allegedly raped conscious children).  It doesn’t matter.  Neither is a good choice for a dinner date.

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I think we can all agree that given a choice between the two, Cosby and Fogle, the answer is a resounding neither.  The same goes for aisles that are too narrow, or an aisle that is a little less too narrow.  The answer is neither.

Compound that with extreme stimulation.  Your dog isn’t happily going shopping with you for doggie supplies, as you’ve fooled yourself into selfishly thinking. Your dog is in a confined area with a lot of food and treats that they may resource guard, or have to be on the defensive against other resourcing guarding dogs.  And by the way, that other dog isn’t just another dog.  It’s another dog who is just as overstimulated as every other dog in the place.  Some are resource guarding. Some are desperately trying to guard themselves and their owners (as I believe was the case with the pit).  Others are too goofy to know this is a horrible situation and act all kinds of crazy, thereby increasing the (negative) energy of all the other dogs.

Remember, that idiot jacking his dog up in the car before he even gets into the store will be sharing close quarter aisle space with your dog.  Add to it the fact that the dog is under no semblance of control once they are in the store (the owner is following the dog around at the end of the leash like a moronic cow).

I will not bring my dogs into pet stores for this very reason.  There are many frightened, hyper, out of control bundles of energy in there.  And that’s just the people.  By being selfish and getting that “I Brought My Beloved Pup Into The Store” high that people so desperately want, we are actively ignoring all the warning signs of a dangerous situation, and blithely moving forward.  YOU are the adult human.  YOU are the one with opposable thumbs.  YOU are the one who should be realizing that this is a dangerous situation.  Even if your dog is very chill and well behaved and you Pilot the hell out of them….where is your guarantee that every other person in there is the same way? You don’t have one.  Suck it up. Find other ways to get that rush of “I Spoiled My Dog Today” high that you are so desperately seeking.

“Oh, but Fifi loves it so much!!!”

And I loved cutting class when I was in high school.  Believe me, that was not the answer my parents gave my principal when I was caught: “But she loves cutting class so much!”.

Yeah, I got grounded 6 months with another 6 month probation.

Yeah, I got grounded 6 months with another 6 month probation.

And now I’m grateful for their harsh punishment.  It helped turn me into a functional adult.

Point is, parenting, whether it be a dog or a human, involves tough choices.  Yes, it’s not always fun, and it most definitely involves handing down decisions that you’d rather not, but that’s why you’re the adult. That’s why you have the opposable thumbs.  Because you’re the one who is supposed to use rational thought rather than emotional reactions. So I blame anyone who subjects their dogs to this situation. I don’t care that Rover, a Lab who is 14 years old, loves going and has never bit anyone in his life.  Don’t do it.  The same way I don’t drive my kids around without their seat belts buckled.  ”Well, we’ve never gotten into an accident yet, I’m a careful driver, and my kids are well behaved.”  It’s just as stupid and reckless.  Yes, I can control my kids, my behavior, and perhaps even my car, but I can’t control situations around those things.

Finally, I blame PetSmart, Petco and all those other big box stores that allow pets into their store.  Simply to raise revenue and profit, they cater to the irresponsible people who bring their pets in, thereby putting the animals at risk.  Yes, the owners should know better than to bring them in, but I’ve already established that the owners are not always in the right frame of mind, and (if I’m going to be generous here), misinformed and didn’t know better.  Know who else operates on the same basis as these pet stores?

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A dog was put in a tough situation.  He was uncomfortable. He was nervous, and scared.  And he reacted the way a dog (or human) can be expected to react when pushed beyond their limits.  The real story isn’t about a dog who defended himself from attacked another dog.  This story is not about pits being aggressive, nor is about pits in general.  This is about failure.  Dogs being failed by their owners, and being failed by the very stores who are designed to benefit them.  All to boost their profitability.

End it now. Don’t bring you dog into such a situation.  If you want that “I Spoiled My Dog” rush, spend more time with them. Teach them agility. Teach them a trick.  Pilot them. Give them what the need, and stop trying to buy the wag of your dog’s tail. Earn it.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio